This is my review of "Sword of Damocles". It contains spoilers.
S P O I L E R
Unfortunately I consider “Sword of Damocles” to be the weakest of the Titan books so far. It has the strengths typical for Titan because of the variety, the richness of cultures, beliefs, mentalities and histories of the aliens on board as well as how they and humans interact and work with each other. There was a lot to discover and I enjoyed these parts of the book.
I think it was a good idea to focus on different characters than Troi and Riker. My favourite part is definitely how the author developed Jaza in this book, exploring his religious and personal beliefs. His sacrifice was very touching and fit very well into this story.
Ra-Havreii was his usual annoying self. It was good to learn more about him and his abilities but nevertheless, this part of the book showed very well that placing so different species and people together must also cause frictions. This is a good example showing that learning and adapting has to take place on all sides. I guess a series like Titan needs the annoying alien genius as well.
Modan fascinated me and I immediately liked her. Her abilities are very interesting and I am hoping to learn more of her in future books. Also Dakal is getting more and more promising. It was interesting to learn more about the Cardassian culture and mentality and as it is the case with Modan, I am looking forward to meet him again. The other alien characters were pretty much in the background. At least I can`t remember any memorable scenes at the moment. Being a fan of Dr. Ree, I was a bit disappointed that he had such a small part. But, on the other hand, I guess I have to be patient. I am confident that he will have his turn in a future book.
As I said, I don`t mind that Deanna Troi and Will Riker stepped a bit back into the background but I am not happy how the crisis between them was written. At the beginning of the book, I was wondering who IS this William Riker? Suddenly he turns into a Prime Directive hardliner, something that makes no sense to me whatsoever. Pretty much at the same time the frictions between him and his wife were shown. We were left wondering for a long time what is going on here until an explanation quite late in the book. That is fine but I am not happy with the explanation given. Riker being worried that his wife might die and putting a child in danger on a ship are worries that would make sense to a certain degree before the start of Titan, before both of them actually accepted their posts on board. I think this question was dealt with in “A Time to…” and warming this up in such a dramatic fashion feels wrong and out of character. The only excuse I could see is that Riker`s mind must have suffered because of hormonal treatment. Only, if that is the case, I think this should have been spelled out instead of showing a Riker who pretty much felt “wrong” to me nearly all the time.
Yes, having a baby is a big step, especially when having a child is certainly not something that happens quickly and easily. Having my own experiences, I do understand. But, again, this constant negativity put me off. I can remember that in the past, Riker was far from being this scared of having a child, he showed a healthy mix of feelings that went in both directions. I can understand that Riker might want to prevent a pregnant wife from going on missions that might be dangerous but not only was Deanna not pregnant, he even fiddled with her duties on board! Again, the only explanation I have is that the hormonal treatment is screwing Riker up and if that is the case, I also have to wonder if it is affecting his ability to do his job as a captain.
From early on I had trouble to make sense of the scientific, the treknobabble part of the story. I quickly remembered something Janeway said, that time travel gives her a headache. After a while I continued reading these attempts at shedding more light on the phenomena. I understood some of what is going on but certainly not all.
When I read comments about this book at the time I had nearly finished reading it, I just sighed and felt the same when I read “Warpath” quite a while ago – is it really so difficult to at least spell out properly what is going on at the end of the book? I understand the need some authors seems to have to keep readers guessing and wondering. But when they do, I think it is also a matter of fairness and courtesy to show clearly what happened in the book. That means, the more clever readers who “got” is can be pleased with themselves and the ones who don`t are not left lost or even in the belief they understood what went on but in reality they misunderstood important parts of the book.
I use Google as my personal archive and when I write reviews I also add what I missed or misunderstood. When I read the Trek BBS discussions, I copied this conversation:
One thing I'm still trying to wrap my head around -- you explained in a post above that the Eye was actually the incursions of the planet Orisha from different time periods, caused by the space-time folding of the Veil.
But am I correct in understanding that the reason the Orishans developed the Veil in the first place was to hide from the Eye -- if they cloaked the planet, they would no longer have to suffer the catastrophes that had destroyed all their past civilizations?
So then, it's a predestination paradox/self-fulfilling prophecy? Sigh, temporal mechanics.
That's right. It's a loop. They were their own deity. Funny how that worked out, innit?
Well, like Will Decker said, we all create God in our own image. The Orishans just did it literally.
Why isn`t a conversation like that not at the end of the book? It would have been so easy to do. And give the reader something additional to think about.
Instead we get a few short changes of perspective at the end and each time I had to wade through all the “he” and “she”s, looking for actual names to finally tell me who these people are. In many cases, I was left wondering. It was first of all a frustrating experience.
The cover is beautiful and the foldout of the ship is a nice addition. But I am hoping the next Titan book will be more to my liking.